Editor's Gloss: Counting the Numbers
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When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.
— William Thomson, Lord Kelvin
As I write this, the United States is still officially without a new president. We have been counting the numbers for weeks now, and as Lord Kelvin says, our "knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind."
Lord Kelvin made his own contributions to numbers. That which we know as the freezing point, thirty-two degrees Farenheit or zero degrees Celsius (or centigrade, for those who prefer it), is 273.15 degrees on the Kelvin scale, where zero is reserved for absolute zero, the point at which a system has minimum possible energy. (That would be minus 434.07 degrees Farenheit.) Lord Kelvin would have understood the different counting systems used by the Republicans and the Democrats in the state of Florida.
This issue of The Journal of Electronic Publishing offers numbers that are neither meager nor unsatisfactory. They are solid, thorough, and instructive. They tell us a lot about the endeavor in which we are all involved.
Aldrin E. Sweeney,assistant professor of science education at the University of Central Florida, has the numbers to show that faculty and administrators are still on the fence about e-journals — on whether they are as well reviewed, as well read, or as well regarded. However, there is hope: Everyone seems to think they should be reviewed, read, and regarded equally with their paper counterparts.
How Scientists Retrieve Publications: An Empirical Study of How the Internet Is Overtaking Paper Media
Bo-Christer Björk and Ziga Turk, editor and one of the co-editors of the Electronic Journal of Information Technology in Construction, updated their study of the use of e-journals both for finding information and for publishing. They have the numbers, and they are compelling. Their results include the following intriguing fact: When asked how much credit they get for publishing in e-journals, respondents in their survey said publishing in an e-journal is lower on the prestige scale than having a paper in conference proceedings published as a bound book with page numbers.
Margaret Landesman and Johann van Reenen explore the policy behind the numbers. They are both involved in two approaches to solving the budget crisis in research libraries, the consortial movement and the new approaches to scholarly publishing by small publishers and libraries themselves. The authors have a startling theory: The two approaches may be working at odds with one another, even canceling one another out. This paper contains some solid suggestions for averting a coming clash.
Peter Lyman and Hal R. Varian, associate dean and dean at the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California, Berkeley, have come up with a staggeringly large number, the amount of recorded information. In their study — which is ongoing — they say, "The world produces between one and two exabytes of unique information per year, which is roughly 250 megabytes for every man, woman, and child on earth. An exabyte is a billion gigabytes . . ."
Peter Singer, an associate editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and Sun Life Chair and Director, University of Toronto Joint Center for Bioethics, Toronto, Canada, looks at the other side of the numbers, in this case the advantages of free dissemination of research results. His provocative and persuasive editorial was first published in BioMed Central.
Contributing editor Thom Lieb considers the numbers, too. He focuses on the millions of Internet users who are visually impaired, and reviews both the law and some responses publishers should incorporate to comply with the law.
Thom also asks JEP readers for help for his next column, on privacy policies. Please take a few minutes to respond to his survey at [formerly http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/jepsurvey.html.]
This issue of JEP presents the numbers and their meanings. If you want to challenge our numbers, don't take us to court: Send your thoughts to Potpourri for possible publication.
Judith Axler Turner may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.